Posts Tagged ‘games’

May 27

Game theory: Exit strategies

Whilst playing No More Zombies on the iPhone recently, I found myself trying to set a limit to my gaming. My limit was set to 100 residents. If I get to 100 people in my town I will stop playing, delete the game and get on with my life. Free of the distraction of stocking shops, building buildings and killing zombies I can discover the other delights of the mobile gaming world.

By 99 I knew the end was near and I was making my price with the world whilst secretly hoping that number 100 was far away. To my surprise, however, the illusive centennial resident was really far away. I continued to pack my shops full of goodies, made a shed load of money and killed more than my fair share of the undead. Yet the regular resident that appeared every few ‘minutes’ (in game time, not real time) failed to materialise.

This got me wondering. Is there a part of game theory that deals with checkpoints, achievements and round numbers in terms of exit points. Is there a shelf life for the casual gamer that can be manipulated to extend the general playtime?

In the old days a game had a beginning and an end, whereas now we have downloadable content which can extend the life of a game ten fold . What interest me though is whether game designers or testers look at ‘exit strategies’.  In business an exit strategy is a point in which the investor or owner has got all the best out of a business and leaves the company with money, shares or a general good feeling. I suppose in games with DLC the main exit point is after the main quest or story has been completed but with more endless games such as city builders, when is a good time to unplug?

After some time scouring the Internet for studies or papers to support my theory I was surprised to find nothing that helped. There is a lot online about rewarding gamers in order to keep their attention which I assume is the reaction to losing gamers. However there is little written about when and why they leave the comfort of the gaming world. So for the record, I would like to claim the study of exit theory in gamers as my own.

Gamers leave a good game for many reasons. The top five reasons are:

game completion (main game) most achievable achievements achieved left for newer/better game difficulty to steep time, family and other commitments

With further study and a whole host of questionnaires it might be possible to predict the most likely exit  points of a game and inject these sections with additional goodies to retain their attention. Being aware that you might lose some of your players at 100 residents might encourage game designers to be smarter when it comes to these exit points.



Feb 25

Free Games Around the Web That You can Download

Gaming is a great way to kill time, or your social life, depending on how you look at it, but constantly buying games can be expensive. A hardcore gamer can finish a $60 game in a matter of 20 hours or less (for example Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) which means buying a new game every week (or every few weeks), unless you want to keep playing your old games over and over again. For that reason, you might want to start looking into any of the free options available online. Yes! There are free games online and some of them are actually quite good. Believe it or not, you can also download free games from very famous franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Wait? Isn’t that Illegal? 

If the game is currently copyrighted then it is illegal to download it.  Generally, you can use common sense to decide if something is free or not. One good way to check to see if something is free is to look the game up and check to see if it is for sale anywhere. If it’s for sale on the developers website then it’s definitely not free. Quick tip? Do your research before you download any ‘free’ game. If it requires a code, keyword, crack, or any other type of confirmation other than simply logging on, then it is probably not free. Most free games do require you to sign up and submit your email address and give them a password.

So How Do I Get Free Games? 

While the majority of games are not free, there are a number of free to play games that you can enjoy without every paying a cent. Some of these games are ‘free to play’ and were designed to be free. These are most often MMORPGs such as Digimon, Rift, Warframe, and etc. They vary greatly in content and quality, but you can easily find more than a dozen of them in a few minutes. Other games are offered up for free for a limited time, sometimes from stores, and sometimes as part of special charity or cause promotions.

Free Games 

If you want free games, all you have to do is search ‘free to play games’ and see what comes up. You can add in other tags like ‘RPG’ or ‘FPS’ to get specific types of games, but other than that you can explore as much as you want. Using Free to Play rather than ‘Free’ ensures that your results are a bit more legitimate, and mostly roots out ‘free trial’ results. Once you find the game you want, you can download it via the developer’s website, and usually via torrent if you want it a bit faster.

Temporarily Free Games  

Sometimes developers will offer their games for free towards a cause or for a sale. In this case, you do have to download them quickly or they will go away. A few different sites that sometimes offer free games include Steam, GOG, Green Man Gaming, and even Amazon, although these are rare. For example, Green Man Gaming gave away Borderlands 1 & 2 during the holiday season in 2013, and gave away the entire Fallout series. While these types of occurrences are rare, they are great to watch out for. Anyone interested should consider signing up for newsletters where similar deals might be announced.


While there are hundreds of free games out there, it can be difficult to find and download them. In addition, downloads from around the web can take a long time. For that reason, most gamers downloading games that are already free should consider looking for them via torrent. Some sites like Vuze even put together collections of free games that can be searched and browsed through right from the Bittorrent client. This makes the whole process easier, as well as more convenient. Most torrented games can be added and played with Steam for those that prefer to use a gaming client.

There are plenty of great free games out there and some of them are every bit as complex as games that charge a hefty monthly fine. Downloading free games is a great way to save money, but it is important to make sure it’s actually free before downloading. What else? Have fun playing your new games of course.


Jan 21

Five Fun and Addictive Online Games for Killing Time

Most people these days spend the majority of their time online on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter when they are not busy researching topics for schoolwork or doing business for their jobs. But when social media gets tired, people also love visiting the many websites that have fun, interactive games they can play to kill time and relax the mind.

Looking for a great way to get away from it all right at your desk and feel like a kid again? Then continue reading because below is a list of five of the most fun online games that you can enjoy when you simply wish to kill some time.

Candy Crush

Candy Crush made it big in 2013 as more and more people got turned onto it through Facebook, where they could compete against one another to see who could pass the most levels most quickly and where they could also help each other by sending along extra lives and moves. This puzzle game becomes increasingly challenging as you make your way from one level to the next, but unless you purchase more lives, you are given a limit of only five lives at a time to get through as many levels as you can. This is a good thing, though, as it will prevent you from wasting an entire day attempting to get through this game.

Bejeweled Blitz

Bejeweled Blitz is yet another hugely popular game that Facebook users have become addicted to. The goal is to match the jewels as quickly as possible within one minute’s time in order to score the highest points possible. Scores reset weekly and you can play against your Facebook friends to see who the best is.


Looking for an exciting first person shooter game that is intense and allows you to play with others right on the Internet? Begone, which is appropriate for those aged 13 and older because it is quite graphic, involves a shootout between teams and is fast-paced so you never get bored. Also, while you can play with others, you also have the option of playing on your own.


Looking for a great online game that is a combination of exciting slots and classic Bingo? Then Slingo is your best bet. This game has been around for many years, so those who have been playing it online for a long time will certainly remember it and will notice the upgrades that have been made to the interface since it was first released. This game is fun for people of all ages and will certainly help you pass the time.


Everyone loves a good game of Bingo, but it is even more fun when you can play it online. Some sites even allow you to gamble with play money or real money during every Bingo game that you play, upping the stakes and making the game that much more exciting. Check out these top 10 Bingo tips to stay on top of the many opportunities to take advantage of this simple yet surprisingly fun game online.

Nov 09

Randomness and Video Game Design

Randomness in games is a recipe for disaster. There are some games like snakes and ladders in which everything is random. The roll of the dice is random, the placement of both the snakes an ladders are random and the winner is random. The game requires no skill and has a level playing field. This is one of the reasons it is a great family game, as a child of four playing for the first time has just as much chance of winning as their experience father, who has played many times. However, if you are creating a game for those over the age of six then randomness should be kept to a minimum.

In most cases, games need set rules and laws to govern play. These rules allow players to learn and get better at the game. If you think of tennis for example, the rules are set and anyone can play. However, only those willing to put the effort in truly excel. If randomness is introduced players would not seek to become professionals as they could never truly control the game. In some cases, such as XCOM the randomness is introduced at the very beginning in the placement of the enemy aliens. This randomness works well as it changes the game from memorizing where the aliens are, to a more strategic game where the act of playing requires skill.

Games like the original Mario and Sonic games required the user to play the levels and memorise the layout in order to achieve the best outcome. Whilst fun, it left little playability after the levels had been completed. More recently, games have introduced additional elements to extend playability such as three different star achievements which are achieved when certain criteria is met. This feature does extend the game but only by a factor of three.

One such random occurrence in modern games is the infamous winged blue shell in Mario Kart. The blue shell is a power up given to the last place player and pretty much instantly, takes out the player in first place. The game itself is fantastic and has spawned a slew of clones but one thing that does stop it from being a fully playable game is the blue shell. I know it is part of a range of balancing measures to keep the game fun for all players but it ultimately punishes good players and those who have attempted to master the game. When you see gamers play Mario Kart at a competitive level you will notice that a tactic has emerged where played actively try NOT to be in first place and that by sitting in the middle of the pack is the best strategy when competing.

I don’t think I have explained myself fully here but the moral of the story is that if you intend your game to last, and tempt players to really invest time and effort in your game, then keep randomness to the absolute minimum. It will just turn players off and pigeon hole your game with many others in the ‘good fun for five minutes’ bracket and lose players who will follow and promote your game. Obviously, some exceptions to the rule exist but trust me; my logic is sound.

Related articles Get ready to waste your life: ‘Super Mario Bros.’ is now playable on your Web browser Designer: Elements of Replayability Indie Showcase: FTL (Faster Than Light) Algorithms to play randomized game Get on board

Oct 30

Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design [Infographic]

The path to video game developer success is long and fraught with danger. It might be easy to have and idea but how do you take make that idea a reality. More than that, how do you make game design and development your life?

Developing video games requires knowledge of many different disciplines. Whilst you might be able to outsource certain aspects of the game build, such as game asset design and music composition, your first few games will require you to envisage, creatively direct, project manage and deliver all by yourself. Sadly, game creation is more than just having a game idea, coding the mechanics and then slapping on some lovely graphics… The modern day indie developer needs to manage the marketing and patiently test the final creation in order to secure some commercial success.

Outside of the game design and development process you may want to think about joining a game development team or established studio in order to gain valuable experience in the industry.

With SO many questions floating around, including those questions that you don’t know to ask yet, wouldn’t it be nice if some kind person or website put together a handy list of resources in an easy to read infographic that would act as an ultimate guide to lead you through the ferocious land of game development…

Thanks to the helpful people over at ‘Online Game Design Schools’ you now have such a document.

Behold, Click here to read The Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design



Related articles Game Design Question: Are You Really Making a Game? Indie Developer Interview: Beansprites | Games for Toddlers Job Description of game designer, technical designer, art designer,level designer and sound designer Google’s game chief has your guide to designing for Google Glass Job description for a game designer

Oct 28

Game Design Question: Are You Really Making a Game?

It dawned on me recently whilst researching game design that there is a fundamental question that you should ask yourself when starting a game:

Am I making a game or a narrative driven fantasy simulation?

Before video games were around, a game was an activity with a set of rules than could be enjoyed again and again. From Tic Tac Toe to soccer they all have a fixed set of rules and can be played anywhere with almost anything. By this I mean that both the examples can be played on a beach, for example, as Tic Tac Toe can be drawn in the sand with a stick and soccer can use a beach ball and use sweaters as goal posts.

Popular video games such as Tetris and Angry Birds adhere to this pattern. Moles could easily replace the birds and the setting changed to a garden. The rules and enjoyment of the games would still be the same. Game developers need to decide right at the beginning whether or not they are making a game and if so, what are the rules, how is it enjoyed and can it be replicated no matter what the graphics, story and rewards.

A narrative based fantasy simulation sees the player assume a role in a story and the player must walk the protagonist through a series of events and/or confrontations until the narrative is complete. Whilst fun, these games are pretty linear and often are disposed of when complete similar to books.

One question that is asked when designing games is:

How is the game won or beaten?

For a narrative driven games this is easy, as it concludes when the story is complete. However, with Tetris, the game is never truly beaten. Success is achieved by beating previous scores. Games like chess can be mastered but never really beaten.

So when your next devising your next video game ask yourself if it’s a game or simulation and if the answer is a game then focus on the rules, the gameplay and how a player wins. If the later is true, focus on story, experience emotion and characters. Trying to mix the two from an early point might just lead to a game that has mediocre effort in both areas.


Aug 20

How to improve user experience when designing a game

After you have been working on a game for so long it is common to develop “blindness” to certain aspects. A good tip is to get a post it note and write that user experience is not only about how intuitive features in the user interface are, it is about the ENTIRE gaming experience as a whole (including game balancing, the retention and viral mechanics, even the graphics and ensuring that it goes with the theme of the overall game). Here are a few top tips from working in gaming:

1. Let non gamers play it

Ask non-gaming/non-techy friends to have a play of the game and watch them play it. Write down anything that was too difficult or confused them. Try to avoid helping them straight away when they get stuck, but try to include a few cheats for you to input to get your player further in the game depending on how much of your game you want them to test.

2. Get them to explain what they are doing

Ask your test players every so often why they are doing whatever it is that they are doing. The answers may surprise you. “Well I don’t want to enter that dungeon yet so I am just going to chop down bunch of trees first.” or “Completing that level is too much effort (probably a game balancing issue), so I’m just going to explore for a while” or “I do not know what to do so I’m not even going to bother paying attention to it or interacting with it.”

3. Balance the goals

User experience design in video games isn’t just about captivating your players (but it’s a big part of it), it’s also about balancing the goals. The UI is where users invite their friends, spend money, and it’s through the UI that you can get people to come back – the user interface is perhaps one of the most important, if not THE most important way to meet/exceed your product goals. You want to create a enjoyable and fun gaming experience while also retaining players, increasing virality, and monetizing (if that is your thing). This is more ‘Product Management’, but every UX designer should understand some principles of product management (and every product manager should understand some principles of user experience design). Sometimes, to meet product goals, you have to compromise with delighting users. Your players will tell you one thing but do the complete opposite. Example: during testing, we had users complain that they hated how they had to spend 3 energies to chop down one tree. Their feedback to us was to get rid of it. If we got rid of it, it would severely disadvantage our balancing of the game. But guess what? Looking at their behavior, they still did it to advance in the game. You’ll only be able to measure this in an unreleased game if you do a couple of user tests. There are a few ways to do this, here are two:

For bigger teams, get a good group of users (around 50 or so) to test your game while you’re developing it. Be sure to prepare surveys/questionaires to send them. If these are all power users, well, I’d take the results with a grain of salt, but you’ll have a good starting point in that the mechanics and features at least work for them. Try using a service like to test your game in front of completely new people that haven’t been exposed to any of your previous games. 4. Test features on existing games

Use existing games that are maturing as a testing ground. If you’re introducing a new mechanic/feature/balancing, scrap something quick together and release it in an existing game you have that’s maturing in its userbase. This is powerful in that you have real users interacting with the feature or mechanic or the game balance, and you can measure quantitatively rather than qualitatively. That being said, you should also keep confounding factors in mind (theme of the game could be totally different, and therefor it works…etc etc).

5. Check out the Competition

See what the competition is doing – you might find that every so often, much larger games companies have a larger budget to test things against their users, so if it’s working for them, chances are, it’s something that works. You can use that as a starting point.

6. Don’t reinvent the wheel

There is no point reinventing the wheel or get overly creative. If there’s a common convention for a certain feature or mechanic, stick with it. Chances are, it’s something your players are already used to and it’s something they understand, so seeing something completely different can confuse them or throw them off. For example: in social games, players are used to their neighbour/friends hud on the bottom and Quests on the side. This is a fairly common convention, and if you decided to have the quests on the bottom, and friends on the side, it could cause confusion and frustration.

And remember

Making something simple is often harder than creating something complex. Don’t bury anything beyond two clicks – if you do, it’s probably something your users won’t take the time to find, or it’s something that’s not significant. And if it’s not significant, why have it in the first place? It’s just taking up server/bandwidth space.



Jul 17

How To Create Buzz In The Gaming Community

Let’s say that you are creating a game and you want to build anticipation among the gaming hordes. Furthermore, let’s say you’re not one of the giants, and thus your resources are limited. Regardless, you and your partners have designed this awesome game for the iPhone, and you want to generate excitement about it, which in turn will morph into paying customers, thereby allowing you to continue in your dream job of designing games. How do you go about achieving this dream?

All You Need Is Blog

First and foremost, creating a blog, especially one told from the point of view of the designer, is essential, as in mandatory. Not only does it get your company/product name out there, it gives people a chance to take a peek behind the curtain, and get excited about what they see. If you do in fact create a blog from the perspective of the game designer, people can follow along and see the progress, and anticipation builds as the release date gets nearer. If you can fit in a few sneak previews, screen shots, advance details, then so much the better.

Hooray! A company I never heard of is coming out with a game I know nothing about!

Let’s Be Social

Put together a Facebook page dedicated to the game. This is even easier to do than a blog, and considering the strong gamer community on Facebook, you have an instant audience. Don’t forget Twitter, either. When it comes to financial outlay and time, it doesn’t get any easier than social media.

Conventional Thinking

Okay, now we’re getting into a pricier realm here, but as the old adage goes, you have to spend money in order to make money. If you have an advertising budget set aside, then it’s time to start dipping into it. The thing is to not wait until after the game is released; you need to generate advance buzz. Naturally, in order to do so, you must already have a good idea what the game is about and how it’ll turn out. And you don’t even really have to go all out; get some cheap t-shirts printed up, or colorful information handouts, something that stands a good chance of sticking in gamers’ memories. Booth babes may be out of the question, but hey, there’s always a booth sock puppet. When you stop and think about it that would be pretty memorable, right?

Get a Trailer

No, not one of those that are pulled by your car. Movies generate excitement and interest by showing trailers before the main feature. You know, right before they warn you about smoking, using cell phones during the movie, and where the exits are located. It’s the same with the world of gaming. Put together a good trailer, or even multiple trailers, to show players what all the fuss is about. This idea fits neatly with the idea of blogs, since that’s where the trailers would ultimately reside. See? These things are interrelated.

I’ll Alert The Media

It may seem obvious, but let’s be complete here. Fire off e-mails to periodicals, websites, trade journals, any media source that fits the gaming nice you’re going after, and introduce yourself. If you’re not a known quantity, forget targeting the mainstream media, and focus instead on the smaller outlets that specialize. And while you’re at it, generate some good word of mouth by notifying gaming bloggers. Try to cultivate a rapport with them, and let them help spread the word. But again, make sure that the blogs cover the type of game you’re developing. A blog dedicated to paper and dice gaming will be a bad choice to market your new iPhone game that features steel cage death matches between pieces of sentient produce.

Recruit An Army of Dark Minions

If you find yourself in the position of having both an awesome new game release and a shoestring budget, consider gathering together a dedicated group of gamers that you’ve given a preview of your game and they happen to love it. This loyal army may get paid in merchandise, free copies of your game, or any other benefits you can think of, and in return they spread the word on websites, forums, at conventions, whatever. They are your evangelists. Remember that the most effective, the most trusted advertising is word of mouth!

Final Thoughts

There are so many independent developers out there that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. You need to stand out, build a rep, and give the people a killer product.


Photo Credit:


Jul 03

Taking Casual Gaming to the Next Level

For a long time, I never really enjoyed games consoles. I always preferred to play on a PC, where the keyboard and mouse made many games much easier – particularly strategy titles, I thought.

Joypads seemed to get harder and harder to master, with triggers, analogue joysticks, cursor arrow keys, coloured buttons and so on, all of which have to be used in different combinations to achieve different moves.

No, I was a firm PC gamer – at least, that was, until the Nintendo Wii came along, and changed everything.

Redefining Casual Gaming

The Nintendo Wii brought gaming to the masses, not so much eliminating the joypad, but redefining it so that it featured the bare minimum of buttons, coupled with innovative motion-sensitive response that made gaming feel incredibly natural.

I found myself playing games where my opponents were pensioners or toddlers, or both; I’ve seen a baby master one Wii game in which moving the remote rang a bell.

But I always knew, as well, that the cartoonish graphics and fun-for-all-the-family styling of the Wii were not really a fair representation of what console gaming is really like.

So after a couple of years, I took the decision to sell my Nintendo Wii, and get a ‘proper’ games console.

Becoming a Gamer

What surprised me when I bought my PS3 was the extent to which the Wii seems to have influenced the games that have followed for other platforms.

Titles like Little Big Planet incorporate the kind of cooperative gameplay you might expect to see in a Wii game, as well as the light-hearted graphics.

But they present much more fiendish logic problems that must be solved, and this I found to be reminiscent of some of the more obscure puzzles in the Monkey Island games for the PC.

Overall, I’d say some games console titles – although clearly not all of them – are now much closer to the gameplay of PC titles than ever before.

Full Circle

By playing these PS3 games, I found myself reminiscing more and more about the PC games I used to love, from Monkey Island to Theme Park and the original bird’s-eye-view, cartoonish Grand Theft Auto games.

I dug out some of those old installation discs and gave those old games a fresh play through (GTA is particularly fun if you switch off the frame-rate limiter, as modern-day graphics cards can run it at a blistering pace).

Ultimately, it was the realisation that I was able to do this that brought me back around to my original love of the PC as a gaming platform.

How many games consoles (aside from the unique example of the PS2) are still in popular usage, and are capable of playing titles that were first released 15 years ago or more?

Only the PS2 can fit that description – and even then only thanks to being backwards-compatible with PS1 games – and with the news that Sony have ceased production of the PS2, the PC seems set to once again reclaim its position as the best long-term gaming platform.

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Jun 20

6 Video Games My Kids Are Addicted Too

My children love to play games. When I need them to sit still for a while (and stay out of trouble) or if we have exhausted playtime I often suggest they play games. Finding the perfect video games for children can be tough. There are some games that look OK for children but aren’t appropriate. You can’t always tell by the picture on the case whether or not the game is suitable for those under 10 years of age. Sometimes, kids under 10 aren’t going to want to play war games or understand what they mean!

We currently have a PlayStation and some of the more popular games in our house are:

Little Big Planet

This is a fantastic game because it allows our child to create their very own levels from scratch. They can create anything and make their own world so that they can truly enjoy playing the game and letting their creative ideas flow.

Lego Star Wars Complete Saga

Everyone knows Star Wars but this game really makes it look appealing to everyone. This incorporates all characters throughout the entire Star Wars franchise and allows children to come up with fun and challenging puzzles as well. It may have shooting but as this is balanced with slapstick which makes the kids laugh.

Formula One Championship Edition

I was surprised to see this on as often as it is. It is a great choice for children who love racing cars. Also, it is a game that can be played by all of the family so with the cooperative mode on, everyone we can play along.


The film, along with a slew of other Disney movies are very popular in our house. There are puzzles to solve as well as different levels and skills to play through. The skill level starts off low and works its way up to be quite a challenge towards the end.


This is a great family game that I loved as a girl so was eager to play it with my kids. This is great for children to learn about money at the same time as having a bit of fun with their friends and family alike. It can drag on after a while but great fun for family night.

Sonic Unleashed

Everyone loves Sonic, but I was a bit skeptical about this one, after all, Sonic turns into a ‘Were-Hedgehog’. Ultimately though, he is a great character and gamers can choose different players. Plus all the damage he does is to robots and not animals or people.

There are so many amazing games to play and even if your child has a little trouble understanding or using a game or even the play station console, there is plenty of PlayStation support on offer. Use it because it really will allow your child to enjoy their gaming experience. Remember, games can be fun and they can be educational also.

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